Guests: Mike Barnicle, Christina Brown, Andrea Mitchell, Heidi Harris, Leo Terrell, Ron Brownstein, Steve McMahon, Mark Green, Michelle Bernard, Jeff Johnson, Margaret Carlson
MIKE BARNICLE, GUEST HOST: The race card. Who played it first? And who‘s likely to get hurt?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Mike Barnicle, in tonight for Chris Matthews. Leading off, race in the race. For the second straight day, race and charges of which side is playing the race card occupied center stage in the presidential campaign. Late this afternoon in Florida, Senator John McCain was asked about the issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His comments were clearly, were clearly the race card because of what he said. Everybody can read his remarks. And in fact, his campaign retracted those remarks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: In a moment, we‘ll talk to two people with very different ideas about who started this fight and who‘s to blame for the nastiest week yet in this campaign.
We‘ll also take a close look at who stands to benefit from this debate. Does Barack Obama really want this campaign to be about race? Or should John McCain worry about turning off moderate voters he needs in November?
Also, it didn‘t get much notice in the media and didn‘t show up in any newspaper obituary pages, but the idea of a Democratic ticket of Obama and Hillary Clinton died a very quiet death this week. How did the dream team ticket disappear so fast and so quietly?
Plus, Obama‘s overseas trip didn‘t help him much, but did it hurt?
Fresh new poll numbers in tonight‘s “Politics Fix.”
And this may be HARDBALL, but wait until you hear how much the Chamber of Commerce softball team paid for beer after their tournament. That‘s our “Big Number” in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
But first, race in the race. We‘re joined by radio talk show hosts Heidi Harris and Leo Terrell. Heidi, let‘s start with you. I mean, this is getting to be a pretty tedious subject, this “He said, he said,” back and forth. How do you figure it started, and who is to blame, if anyone, for it?
HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, Barack Obama did it this time, talking about race, saying that John McCain‘s campaign was going to portray him as a guy with a funny name and that he wasn‘t the right color to be on currency. Are you kidding me? I cannot believe he even said that. John McCain has never said anything like that in any aspect of his campaign, and Barack Obama was so far out of line for saying that, he deserves any kind of repercussions he gets.
MATTHEWS: Leo, I mean, “so far out of line”—do you think John McCain was out of line in doing what he did, saying what he said, what his campaign has said?
LEO TERRELL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes, Mike, because it‘s not just -
Barack Obama made those comments on numerous prior occasions. But the real issue, Mike—and I wish Heidi would tell me the Republican strategy of having blond, blue-eyed Paris Hilton, blond, blue-eyed Britney Spears in a commercial for—trying to attack Barack Obama. The subtle message, there, Mike, is, Uh-oh, white woman, black male, that‘s a no-no. I guarantee you that is a subtle message of the race card.
I want someone to tell me what was the purpose of that? What was the political message? It was to send, Mike, a message of race. Black and—white women with black men...
HARRIS: Oh, God.
TERRELL: ... is a major no-no. Someone tell me the logic behind that.
HARRIS: I can‘t believe...
TERRELL: Tell me the logic. Tell me the political message.
HARRIS: ... you see it that way. That‘s amazing.
TERRELL: Oh! Oh!
HARRIS: That‘s amazing because...
TERRELL: Historically, Heidi...
HARRIS: ... you know, Halle Berry‘s in the middle of suing. I can‘t believe—I can‘t believe that you thought that was racist.
BARNICLE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
BARNICLE: Wait a minute.
BARNICLE: Let‘s not all speak at once. Leo, let me tell you, before we get to Heidi, I didn‘t see what you saw in that commercial. I thought it was distinctly different from the Harold Ford commercial, which was purely aimed at dividing that state on race, on a racial basis, the Harold Ford commercial.
If we have it, can we show it? I don‘t know whether we have it or not, to refresh people‘s minds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he ready to lead?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: Here‘s the Obama ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gas prices soaring. Barack Obama says no to off-shore drilling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TERRELL: Mike, the logic...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And says he‘ll...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: I mean...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... raise taxes...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: I just didn‘t get it, Leo.
TERRELL: Mike, the logic...
BARNICLE: Tell me where you‘re coming from on this.
TERRELL: Mike, the logic is simply this. There are certain people who may be on the fence about Obama, the fact that an African-American—they may not make the leap in logic in seeming (ph) that it‘s a harmless commercial. They‘re saying—they may think that he‘s linked to those two women. They may find that offensive, Mike. That‘s what I‘m talking about.
TERRELL: For those people who are not informed may find that offensive...
BARNICLE: But Leo...
TERRELL: ... two white women and a black man—yes, Mike?
BARNICLE: Leo, I don‘t want to cut Heidi out of this, but based upon that definition, of which you perceive some people might take from that commercial, those people were never going to vote for Barack Obama in the first place, if that‘s what they‘re thinking. If that‘s what‘s going through their diseased minds—this white guy—white woman and a black guy—they were never going to vote for him.
TERRELL: But here‘s my point, though. It‘s the image and the mindset of what—what is the political message, Mike? Somebody tell me, what is the political message of putting Heidi Fleiss—I mean, excuse me, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in those commercials? What‘s the political message?
BARNICLE: Heidi, go ahead. Take it.
HARRIS: There‘s no political message.
TERRELL: Oh, there it is!
HARRIS: The message of this—those girls are—those girls are vacuous human beings who do not further anybody‘s dialogue, OK? They‘re an embarrassment to those of us who are blond. And the point that the commercial is making is Barack Obama has that rock star appeal, just like Paris Hilton, just like Britney Spears. That was the point. It wasn‘t about white versus black. I can‘t believe you see that in the commercial.
TERRELL: Oh, yes.
HARRIS: That‘s not what was intended.
BARNICLE: All right, Heidi, let me ask you...
BARNICLE: Let me ask you now, Heidi, is there anything wrong—do you think there‘s anything wrong with an American politician, a United States Senator who‘s capable of drawing 200,000 people in Berlin? Is there something wrong with that?
HARRIS: There‘s nothing wrong with that, except they had rock concerts and they had some popular people in Germany performing concerts prior to him getting there. I don‘t know if all those people were going to show up to see Barack Obama.
BARNICLE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You just took me right off the trolley tracks here. What does a rock concert before Barack Obama‘s speech have to do with anything?
HARRIS: They had people—they had people performing there to attract a crowd. Now, of course, the crowd could have left and not stuck around for Barack Obama‘s speech. But let‘s be honest, all those people were not flooding to see Barack Obama. I wouldn‘t care if they were, by the way, but they weren‘t in that case.
BARNICLE: Leo, let me ask you, who do you figure, if anyone, loses or wins when this discussion is about race in this country?
TERRELL: Oh, no question about it, Mike, John McCain, because McCain‘s comments alienate those in the middle. Oh, he‘s trying to heat up his conservative base. He doesn‘t have a conservative base. But he is known for being an independent, a moderate. Playing the race card, Mike, turns off independent and moderate Republicans because you know what? This country is far past that. And this is the problem that McCain—he is trying to attack Obama with everything. And Mike, the irony is these comments were made three different occasions, as early as June of this year. Why is McCain bringing up these comments now? Because his campaign is in trouble, Mike.
BARNICLE: OK. I want both of you to take a look and a listen at what John McCain said today when he was asked whether he brought up the issue of race in the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I didn‘t bring up the issue. I did not bring up the issue. Senator Obama did, three times in one day. And his campaign later retracted it. So I think it‘s pretty obvious that at least they acknowledged that. So he brought up the issue of race. I responded to it because I‘m disappointed, and I don‘t want that issue to be part of this campaign. And since his campaign retracted it, I‘m ready to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: So Leo, let me ask you, first of all, what do you think of John McCain‘s statement today, earlier today? And do you think John McCain is a racist?
TERRELL: No, no. He‘s not a racist. His campaign staff, Mike. His campaign is in trouble. He‘s attacking. He‘s attacking. He‘s trying to attack Obama in all different ways, and he went to the lowest card of all, the race card. And Mike, you know, Obama is stating the truth. His name is different. He is a person who‘s not—doesn‘t look like the other 43 presidents. He‘s stating the obvious.
McCain needs the race card, Mike, because it infuriates certain people, Mike, you said, who will never vote for Obama but wants to bring this case (ph) down (ph). Look, Mike, in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, people stated very clearly race was an issue in their decision making. And I‘m telling you, McCain‘s strategy knows that. And race is to his disadvantage because it‘s going to hurt him with the independents and the moderates, Mike.
BARNICLE: Leo, you just—you just picked out two states. I got to tell you, I‘m sitting here today in Massachusetts. Race is an issue in this state, as well as 49 other states. But in any event, Heidi, what‘s your response to John McCain‘s comment earlier today?
HARRIS: Well, you know what? I think he said the right thing. He‘s not the one who brought it up. Let‘s not forget that it hasn‘t been that long since Barack Obama referred to his own grandmother as a “typical white person.” Now, if John McCain...
TERRELL: Why are you bringing that up now?
HARRIS: ... ever said anybody in any context—because if John McCain had ever said anybody was a typical black person, John McCain would be out of the race. Barack Obama calls some—anybody a typical white person, and he gets away with it?
TERRELL: He called his—he called his...
HARRIS: You‘re talking about a free pass?
TERRELL: ... mother—he called his own—he called his own grandmother...
BARNICLE: No, his grandmother.
TERRELL: ... a typical white person.
HARRIS: His grand...
HARRIS: That‘s right. But it doesn‘t matter. What‘s a typical white person, Leo? Am I a typical white person? What‘s a typical white person?
TERRELL: You know what? You know what?
HARRIS: We want to know.
TERRELL: You‘re not running—you‘re not running for president, OK? Hey, listen, let‘s not forget this. Last time I checked, Barack Obama is half black and half white. How can a guy...
TERRELL: ... who‘s 50 and 50 play the race card? Please explain that to me. He‘s not 100 percent black, like me...
HARRIS: Well, what I‘m saying...
TERRELL: ... he‘s half black and half white.
HARRIS: I know that, Leo.
TERRELL: So what is it?
HARRIS: I‘m aware of that. But he‘s...
TERRELL: So what it is?
HARRIS: ... the one who used the phrase “a typical white person.”
That‘s what Barack—I don‘t know what Barack Obama...
TERRELL: He‘s half white, Heidi!
HARRIS: We white people would love to know.
TERRELL: Hey, Heidi! Heidi!
BARNICLE: Let me—let me...
TERRELL: News flash! He‘s half white!
BARNICLE: Let me ask each of you this.
HARRIS: I know.
BARNICLE: Someone sitting at home tonight in Iowa, in Wisconsin, in Oregon, Texas, wherever, watching this program, who just received notice that they‘re getting laid off in two weeks or their hours are being cut back, someone who has to choose this weekend between filling the gas tank or taking the kids to the movies—do you think they‘re interested in hearing this conversation we‘re having about race? Do you think they‘re interested in hearing Barack Obama and Senator McCain talking about race?
TERRELL: You know what, Mike? The sad part about it, as you articulated all those important issues—you tell me historically what drives this country that‘s emotional fear (ph), race, religion and sex. And they play all the time. But you‘re right. The focus is gas. The focus is unemployment. But I guarantee you, it‘s these collateral issues that campaign strategists use, like in McCain, to get people off the major issues that you just articulated.
HARRIS: You know, it seems to me...
BARNICLE: Are you there?
HARRIS: ... that most Americans—I mean, every American I know—
Americans I know are just tired of the race issue. I thought we had gotten past it, and I hate when I hear things...
TERRELL: Oh, please.
HARRIS: ... like this because it makes me realize we haven‘t gotten past it. And it‘s a shame.
BARNICLE: Heidi Harris...
TERRELL: Heidi, everyone knows...
BARNICLE: Go ahead, Leo.
TERRELL: Race is always, unfortunately, an issue. Race is, unfortunately, always an issue. It will always be an issue as long as we are in this country. You know that as well as I do.
BARNICLE: Leo Terrell, Heidi Harris, thanks very much.
HARRIS: Oh, Leo! Leo...
BARNICLE: Coming up...
HARRIS: Leo, we have less—oh!
BARNICLE: You can take it off the air.
Coming up: So regardless of who started this fight—not this one but the other one—who stands to benefit from it? And can we expect this presidential race to stay this negative?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Who will benefit from accusations of playing the race card? Will this help McCain with swing voters, or will he be seen as going negative? And is it good or bad for Obama when race becomes the top issue of the race?
Let‘s bring in NBC News Andrea Mitchell and Ron Brownstein of “The National Journal.” Both of you have covered presidential campaigns for a couple of decades now—no slur intended there, Andrea.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: No, I just started yesterday.
BARNICLE: This is—you know, at least personally, to me this entire discussion/debate about race and how it began this week—I‘m finding it pretty tedious at this stage of the week. I‘m wondering, Ron Brownstein, where is this going? Who wins out of this? Who loses out of this? And why are we having this discussion?
RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: Well, it‘s not too obvious to say that the loser is the country, really, and the electorate. I mean, we are in a very serious time, and this campaign has been moving along a very unserious track. It‘s been snippy, snarky, small-minded, daily accusations already about itself. I mean, we‘re talking about ads and whether ads are fair and whether accusations are fair. We‘re not talking about underlying issues.
Barack Obama made a statement today about energy that could signal a very significant change in his position on a very big issue. We can‘t get that into the debate. I think—in narrow immediate sense of the campaign, I think there is a sense that this last week, McCain has taken the offensive. He‘s controlled the agenda. Obama has been responding.
You know, you‘re in a period where 75 percent of Americans say the country‘s on the wrong track. And if the election is going to be about the challenger in that environment, that would be, I think, the ideal circumstance for McCain. But the larger point, by far, Mike, is that we are all, I think, losing from the tone and tenor and trajectory of this campaign.
BARNICLE: Go ahead. Go ahead.
MITCHELL: I was going to say, before we move into the self-flagellation stage that it‘s just the media focusing on this, I‘ve got to tell you this is exactly what the McCain campaign wants us to focus on. John McCain gave a very serious speech today to the National Urban League and was well received, and you know, criticized his opponent on school choice and some other substantive issues, but went before a potentially hostile audience and did very, very well indeed. As Ron has just pointed out, Barack Obama gave an important speech on the economy.
But the fact is that if the McCain folks wanted us to focus on his Urban League speech, they shouldn‘t have put up a YouTube video on their Web site late today which ridicules, mocks Barack Obama in the most sarcastic way and goes after him again in what Nicole Wallace, their spokeswoman, said is what they thought was a pretty good week.
John McCain just said in a news conference this was humor, it was a joke, you know, Lighten up, guys, this is funny. Well, the Obama camp says these are political, you know, antics, tactics, and that they‘re not very funny, that they are political stunts, to use their phrase. I don‘t know how this gets to a serious point, but the McCain people think this is working for them. They called it a very good week.
BARNICLE: Well, to prove your point about what we‘re doing, you know, playing into their hands, I mean, these two substantive speeches today, one by John McCain, one by Barack Obama, here‘s the clip that we‘re going to play for you now for you to listen to, is what John McCain said earlier today about the race issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: His comments were clearly, were clearly the race card because of what he said. Everybody can read his remarks. And in fact, his campaign retracted those remarks. So I think it‘s very clear. And I was very disappointed. I was very disappointed at his comments. And so his campaign retracted those remarks, so let‘s move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: The bottom line is, Mike, that there were three ads, or two ads and an attack video this week. One was patently false, on the cancellation of the visit to the troops. One was Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. And the third today is Charlton Heston, and you know, Barack Obama parting the waters. Isn‘t that the message McCain wants out?
BROWNSTEIN: You know, Mike, you were asking before about who benefits from this, and obviously, I think the Obama campaign and their reaction, and their reaction all year, have made very clear they do not think they benefit when the conversation is focused directly on race.
On the other hand, John McCain has displayed throughout the campaign a kind of—a level of personal lack of respect, I think, for his opponent that is somewhat unseemly. I mean, there‘s a certain condescension in the way that he talks about Obama that is reflected in these ads. I do not think you would have seen the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton ad—and I am in the camp that does think there is some racial overtone to that. But regardless of that, I do not think you would have seen an ad like that, or much less this one today, from a campaign whose principal—whose candidate—had more respect for his opponent than McCain has displayed toward Obama.
And ultimately, I think, that is risky for him. I don‘t think that will play well over time with the electorate.
BARNICLE: So, I‘m thinking, Ron, that what—what the McCain campaign did this week, to use a baseball metaphor, is throwing in to back Obama off the plate, which they did. They knocked him of off his message. But you‘re saying something a bit bigger than that. You say that John McCain has exhibited, you know, no respect for his opponent.
How has he done this?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think John McCain views Barack Obama very much the way he views—viewed Mitt Romney, or, for that matter, the way George H.W. Bush viewed Bill Clinton, as someone who does not have the body of accomplishments and experience to be president. And I think McCain has let that be clear in a variety of ways throughout the campaign, when he talked about bringing Obama to Iraq to—quote—“educate him,” when he‘s in this portrayal of him as simply a celebrity.
Barack Obama won more votes this spring than any Democratic candidate in history during the party primaries, going back to John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, some pretty big figures. It is just simply not an accurate reflection of reality to say that this—this is someone who is—who is simply a celebrity.
I mean, he has political accomplishments. And I think that that—that sense that emanates from McCain, himself, and is, I think, reinforced by those around him—now, the McCain campaign says, well, Obama is contemptuous of McCain. But you don‘t see Obama talked—they both criticize each other on issues, and that‘s their right.
But you don‘t see Obama talking about McCain with the same edge that you do see McCain talking about Obama. And I think that is reflected in these ads, leaving aside the other issues of whether there‘s a racial component and so forth. Undeniably, these—these ads show a fundamental view that—a view about Obama that, I think, does display a certain kind of condescension.
BARNICLE: So, Andrea, do you think that the McCain campaign, at some point, they figured, you know, they have injected race into the discussion will they move on? Or will they keep at this?
I mean, clearly, Ron‘s right. I agree with him. Any time the discussion is about race, Obama loses. He‘s on the short side of it.
MITCHELL: Well, I think that there is a contempt, which is what Ron is suggesting, a contempt, really, that the candidate himself and people around him feel towards Barack Obama. And I think they think this is working.
I just interviewed someone, a political expert, who said, this is a cold, calculated effort. They have figured it out, that this the way to bring him down, to change the storyline about who Barack Obama is, do it before it is too late, before he reaches the level of acceptance and familiarity to the American voter that makes him a viable possible alternative for president, and that they feel by defining him this way, and defining him early, that they will ridicule, trivialize, and lower his standing by a couple of notches.
And, if you look—and I‘m not one to track polls, daily tracking polls—I don‘t think they are terribly important at this stage of the game, nor are they real realistic, given the state-by-state nature of the electoral vote—but, if you look at the overall tracking poll, bit by bit, nine points down over the week, Barack Obama, and they‘re now dead even.
BROWNSTEIN: Real quick, Mike, it‘s also shifting the fundamental focus of the race, right? I mean, you‘re talking about a period in which more than three-quarters of Americans say the country is on the wrong track. The president‘s job approval is at 30 percent or lower.
There is a strong inclination in the electorate for a change. In environments like that in the past, it‘s been very difficult for the president‘s party to hold the White House, whether it was Lyndon Johnson in 1968, or Harry Truman in ‘52, or Woodrow Wilson in 1920.
BROWNSTEIN: They lost the White House.
This is an effort to shift the focus not toward whether you want to fundamentally continue in the direction that the country‘s going now that has been said by President Bush, but do you trust Barack Obama to be commander in chief and to be president? And if the Obama campaign allows the locus of the campaign to shift toward him, rather than the country‘s direction under Bush, that would be kind of an historic example of political malpractice, and one that would greatly increase McCain‘s odds of winning this election.
MITCHELL: And one—one footnote here. What else happened today?
Fifty-one thousand fewer jobs?
MITCHELL: Those are the numbers that came out today. That‘s not what we‘re talking about tonight.
BARNICLE: oh, Andrea Mitchell, Ron Brownstein, thanks very much.
Whatever happened to the sunshine of the Lincoln/Douglas debates that we heard about, about a month ago? That‘s gone, I guess.
Up next: Jay Leno has some advice for Barack Obama about who he should pick as a running mate. The “Sideshow” is next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” “The Tonight Show”‘s Jay Leno has some vice presidential advice for Barack Obama.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”: Barack Obama told Tom Brokaw the other day that what he‘s looking for in a vice president is a person who would tell him when they thought he was wrong. Well, if that‘s the case, wouldn‘t Hillary be the best candidate?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LENO: She‘s been telling him he‘s been dead wrong since the beginning of this thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: Got to love Leno.
Pretty sure that‘s not what he had in mind, though.
Next, Andrea mentioned it moments ago, and you won‘t believe it when you see it, the McCain camp‘s latest Web video. Take a peek.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: In 2008, the world will be blessed.
AUDIENCE: Barack Obama!
NARRATOR: They will call him the one...
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A nation healed, a world repaired.
NARRATOR: ... who can do no wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any doubts?
NARRATOR: Can you see the light?
OBAMA: This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TEN COMMANDMENTS”)
CHARLTON HESTON, ACTOR: Behold his mighty hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AUDIENCE: Obama! Obama! Obama!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: First Paris Hilton, now Moses? That‘s a pretty big stretch there.
By the way, the Obama camp called that video downright sad.
Time now for “Name That Veep.”
According to “The Washington Times,” John McCain could try to woo undecided women voters and maybe some former Clinton supporters by picking this female governor. She‘s a mother of five, an avid hunter, and big fan of John McCain‘s plans for offshore drilling.
So, who is it? Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. What‘s the hitch? Well, there‘s an investigation into whether she tried to get her former brother-in-law fired from his job as a state trooper.
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
When it comes to office softball, we all know that, sometimes, the game isn‘t as important as the postgame. Well, it turns out the team at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce definitely plays by those rules. According to “Politico,” at the end of the Chamber‘s recent softball tournament, about 1,200 employees had 155 pitchers of beer, 208 mixed drinks, and 111 shots. Thank goodness it wasn‘t a doubleheader.
So, all in all, how much did they spend on drinks? Eight thousand, two hundred and four dollars. They really take their softball seriously. That‘s what I call driving the economy, an $8,204 bar tab—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: Hillary Clinton has decided against putting herself in for nomination at the Democratic Convention. And she‘s all but out of the mix as a running mate for Obama. So, will her supporters be as willing to give up her campaign? Or will they make trouble for Barack Obama?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
CHRISTINA BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Christina Brown with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A slow start for August. Stocks start the month in the red. The Dow lost 51 points. The S&P 500 dropped seven. And the Nasdaq fell 14.
Disappointing numbers from the government about the nation‘s jobless rate. Fifty-one thousand positions were eliminated in July, but that was not as bad as expected.
The slowing economy is taking a toll on U.S. automakers. In July, sales skidded to their lowest point since April 1992, while General Motors posted a hefty $15.5 billion quarterly loss, the third worst showing in its history.
And the world‘s largest jumbo jet landed less than an hour ago at New York‘s JFK Airport. It‘s the first commercial double-decker passenger plane to land on U.S. soil. It features a quieter engine and offers higher fuel efficiency. The Emirates aircraft carried 489 passengers from Dubai -now back to HARDBALL.
BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Remember when there was talk of a Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton dream ticket, with Hillary in the vice presidential slot? Well, some of the people pushing to have Clinton as vice president have backed off.
The founders of VoteBoth.com put out this statement—quote—
“Because it seems that Senator Obama has made his decision to offer the slot on the ticket to another candidate, we believe that continuing to ask him to pick Hillary is no longer helpful to our party‘s chances of winning in November.”
So, what role will the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, have in the 2008 race?
Joining me are Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, and Air America Radio president and author of “Losing Our Democracy” Mark Green.
Mark, you‘re sort of hooked into that whole Hillary Clinton world in New York and New York City. How deep and lingering is the resentment toward Barack Obama among a certain segment of women who were for Hillary Clinton?
MARK GREEN, PRESIDENT, AIR AMERICA RADIO: It‘s not broad, but it is deep among, I would guess, 5 percent. I am in New York. I‘m a friend of the Clintons. I know a lot of their bundlers. I know a lot of their political supporters.
And they were for her because of her skills and her principles and her positions. And, so, nearly all of them now understand that, if you want to invade and occupy another Muslim country, if you want to privatize Social Security, if you want to lose the right to choose, don‘t do anything or don‘t support Barack Obama.
So, 5 percent may end up not being adult. When the Clintons, individually and collectively, campaign for the Obama ticket this August and fall, I think nearly all will come around, but there are some people who are unprofessional and don‘t know how to lose.
BARNICLE: Steve, 5 percent, as Mark just pointed out, that could be a pretty hefty number in a close election. They would have to factor—women who are resentful, still, towards Barack Obama, they would have to factor into the Supreme Court choices that the next president might have to make, wouldn‘t they?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, absolutely.
Mark is—Mark is absolutely right, of course. And I am sure his book, by the way, is great. I can‘t wait to read it.
MCMAHON: But—but, at the end of the day, this election is going to be about, do we want to stay in Iraq for 100 years, or do we want to start withdrawing troops? Do we think people should have access—or have health insurance, or do we think they should be on their own? And do we think the Supreme Court matters?
There are some judges up there, some justices, who are pretty old. And it‘s not very likely that the—that the next president won‘t be picking some of these new justices. And I think people in the Clinton campaign, in spite of their disappointment, recognize that, and they will come on board.
BARNICLE: Hey, Mark, have you been surprised at the relative invisibility of Hillary Clinton since about July 1?
First, I‘m a little surprised and disappointed Steve hasn‘t already read the book, because he‘s mentioned frequently in the index...
GREEN: ... as he will discover.
GREEN: Mike, sorry I can‘t say the same for you.
I‘m not surprised. When you have a close contest, and you lose big or narrowly, you—the public expects and the media makes you step aside, Hillary Clinton, lick her wounds, relax, spend time with family, debt-retire. And it‘s all Obama‘s moment.
Should she, Mike, have tried to do something spectacular, it would have been off-putting. She has been around New York State at small events. She‘s not only a big international star. That‘s obvious. But she campaigns locally election year for herself and otherwise. She‘s up in 2012.
So, I‘m not surprised that it‘s been subdued, but will change, because now she‘s been chosen, apparently, as the keynote speaker on Tuesday night of the convention.
MCMAHON: Hey, Steve, on instinct—and give me a quick answer—don‘t think about it too much—what do you figure is a higher priority for the Clintons, the retirement of Senator Clinton‘s debt or the election of Barack Obama?
MCMAHON: No—no question the election of Barack Obama.
MCMAHON: I think they have already stated that publicly. And that‘s the way they‘re behaving.
BARNICLE: Well, that‘s—that‘s—that‘s good. That‘s good. I‘m glad to hear you say that. You are probably saying that because you know Mark would agree with you, and you‘re in the book.
BARNICLE: President—President Clinton, former President Clinton, is trying to help Hillary retire her campaign debt with an e-mailed invitation that reads, in part: “Of all the people I have had the privilege to break bread with, the person I most enjoy is still Hillary. Now you have a chance to have dinner with her. And if you contribute even as little as $5 today, you can help Hillary retire that pesky campaign debt, and you and a guest might be sitting down to dinner with her soon.”
Mark, I know you‘re a veteran of a couple campaigns yourself. How difficult is it, in this economic environment, to retire a debt that size?
GREEN: It‘s very hard to retire. I have never had to retire a $20 million debt half-personal and half to vendors.
It‘s hard in this economic environment. However, it is impossible to retire substantial debt, as Senator John Glenn found out from his effort in 1984, when you don‘t really have much of a political future or prospects to run for higher office again. Hillary Clinton will be the senator from New York probably for many years to come.
GREEN: If Obama should lose, she could, of course, seek national office again.
She and Bill Clinton, second only now to Barack Obama, are the most—separately and together—famous and popular Democrats in the country. So, I think she will put a big dent into it.
By the way, I actually, not saying this because we happen to be on HARDBALL—I totally agree with Steve. They want Obama to win. They‘re true Democrats, not just out of celebrity status, but out of a history of belief. Because it‘s in their interest and the public‘s interest that they look and they actually do everything they can to help him win. That‘s important. But not number one.
BARNICLE: Back to the lingering resentment thing. Early—let‘s talk about the staff level. In a “New York Times” article headlined “McCain camp says Obama plays race card,” a former Clinton campaign communications director, Howard Wolfson said, quote, “the McCain campaign has obviously been watching our primary very closely and recognized how damaging it had been to be tagged with the charge of race baiting.” This gets back to this tedious race issue that we‘ve been discussing all week long.
Steve, what about at the staff level? Howard Wolfson, others, some resentment towards Obama. How does that play out as we progress into the fall?
MCMAHON: I think what Howard was stating was a statement of fact. I think Howard is as committed as the Clintons are to seeing Barack Obama elected in the fall. I think that‘s being taken a little bit out of context. There‘s no question that the McCain campaign watched the Obama campaign in the primaries and learned from the experiences of the Clinton campaign. Any good campaign would.
I don‘t think that this unfortunate injection of race into the campaign had anything to do with what happened in the Clinton campaign. It had everything to do with what happened a couple days ago and the exchanges that took place. Hopefully we can put that in the background and these guys can talk about the very important issues that the American public face in the next several year. I mean, we are in an economic crisis. The situation in Iraq, while it‘s getting better is still—looks like a situation that is not going to have any end soon.
They‘re talking about going into Iran. I mean, there are some serious, serious issues and Barack Obama and Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are just not serious in the way that has been presented in that ad.
GREEN: Mike, may I add one more point?
BARNICLE: Of course.
GREEN: The Obama team is not just placating the Clintons by having her speak Tuesday night or offering them a plane. This is real. Because of their immense fame and popularity and smarts, and because Obama and Howard Dean really intend a 50-state campaign, even if Obama can‘t carry Utah. You want to help carry down-ticket races. The Clintons can go where Obama can‘t. Time is precious.
So they can go to rural areas, so Obama loses 65-35, not 80-20. They can go to white working class communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania where she did better than Obama did in the primary and try to convince them and bring them over. They are, next to a really good vice presidential candidate, ripping the hide off the McCain campaign on this Charlton Heston, Paris Hilton, demeaning, trivializing attacks on Obama. Next to that I think the Clintons are about as big an asset as Obama has.
BARNICLE: Mark Green and Steve McMahon, mentioned 506 times Mark Green‘s book.
MCMAHON: I‘m going to go get that book. What was that book called, Mark? “Losing Our Democracy?” I highly recommend it.
BARNICLE: Right ahead, Barack Obama drew big crowds overseas but did it cost him votes here at home? We have brand new poll numbers in tonight‘s politic fix next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Our round table tonight, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, Jeff Johnson of Black Entertainment Television, and Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg. We‘re going to play who do you trust, the old Johnny Carson quiz show game here.
I‘m going to ask you, Jeff, first off, right off the top, this whole racial divide debate, divisiveness that has been occurring this week in the campaign trial; do you think it was a case of the McCain campaign saying to itself, we‘re not going to let that happen to us; we‘re not going to be painted into a corner of being racist when it comes to talking about Barack Obama? Or do you think it was a contrived decision to slice and dice Barack Obama much the way the Swift Boaters did to John Kerry exactly four years ago, same time of the campaign year? What do you think?
JEFF JOHNSON, BET CORRESPONDENT: I think if was both. I think they saw an opportunity to be able to respond to comments that Barack made, understanding that he‘s never done well when race is an issue and tried to keep race out of the campaign. It gave them a clear opportunity to say, one, no we‘re not going to be painted into this corner, but even more importantly, let‘s spin this in a way that we know is going to be negative for Obama.
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think—I have to agree with Jeff. I think it was a little bit of both. First and foremost, if you remember Rick Davis‘ interview with Andrea Mitchell yesterday, it was very reactionary. As we discussed yesterday, I really believe that the Obama camp went on the offensive, sort of looking down the pike at what might be coming that campaign‘s why way by 527s in the fall. They never accused the McCain campaign of race baiting. They said they are trying to scare you. It‘s the innocuous who are they?
Rick Davis and I think the rest of the McCain Camp reacted to that. But they also did a claim of reverse discrimination. I think when you start talking about reverse discrimination and saying that the black candidate is discriminating against Senator McCain and Senator McCain‘s campaign, that message is going to resonate with certain voters in certain parts of the country and that was probably very calculated.
BARNICLE: Margaret, I see the wheels turning there. What are you thinking about here?
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG: Well, I picture the meeting, Mike. They say let‘s wait for the right moment here to take umbrage and accuse Barack Obama of playing the race card so that then we can double back on him. The moment came when he made this slightly self-deprecating remark about the dollar bill, and, boom, they‘re out there, with a fury. And the idea that Barack Obama, after a career of bridging the gap that remains between whites and blacks and other minorities, would want to turn up the heat on race is so far fetched. It can‘t be. He wasn‘t playing a card against McCain, he was making a comment. But they were ready to jump and they jumped.
BARNICLE: I agree with you. It‘s a little bit of political paranoia. But today, at three different stops in Missouri—I‘m sorry, yesterday, Wednesday, Barack Obama talked about how he‘s being painted as risky because he doesn‘t look like other presidents on our dollar bills. Now, take a look at how Barack Obama changed that risky line earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You know what, they know their ideas are used up. That‘s why they are spending all their time talking about me. And that‘s why they are spending all their time trying to convince you that I‘m a risky choice. The real risk is doing the same things. The real risk is not adapting to new conditions. The real risk is shying away from seizing a future for bold America.
That‘s why I‘m running for president, because I think we can do better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNICLE: In an interview with the “St. Petersburg Times” at a local Florida station, Barack Obama explained his comments. He said, quote, “I was in Union, Missouri, which is 98 percent white, a rural, conservative and what I said was what I think everybody knows, which is that I don‘t look like I came out after central casting when it comes to presidential candidates. There was nobody there who thought at all that I was trying to inject race in this. What this has become, I think, is a typical pattern from the McCain campaign. They seem to be focussed on a negative campaign.”
Jeff, it seems, off of Barack Obama‘s comments that we just heard played, off of this explanation to the newspaper this afternoon, that he must know instinctively, the Obama campaign must know instinctively that any time the discussion revolves around race, that it‘s a loser for Barack Obama. No?
JOHNSON: No, without question. I think it‘s not just the whole race issue. It‘s anything that‘s controversially black. I mean, first it was Farrakhan, then it was his pastor, last week it was Ludacris. Before this campaign is over, I think he is going to have to denounce Nelson Mandela. Anybody that‘s African-American and says anything risky, he‘s got to separate it.
I agree with earlier comments. There‘s no way he‘s going to use the race card at all and think it‘s going to be effective for him.
BARNICLE: Michelle, does any aspect of this discussion depress you?
BERNARD: All of it completely depresses me. I was listening to Jeff talk and what he says is so true. What I was thinking it was what a difficult place it is for the nation‘s first African-American viable presidential candidate to be in, because not only does he have to distance himself, as he should have done, from people like Reverend Wright and Louis Farrakhan, but then he‘s also in the tough position where we have people who are looking at him and he doesn‘t fit the stereotype, and they keep saying, he‘s elitist; he eats arugola; he shops at Whole Foods.
I mean, it‘s such a tight rope. I can‘t imagine what it takes to really come up with an effective campaign strategy, where you really have to do your best to divorce yourself from being both black and white, which he is. It‘s very difficult. I hope we can get to a point in our nation‘s history when we don‘t have to have these discussions anymore.
BARNICLE: That would be nice.
CARLSON: He‘s going to be the gray candidate.
BARNICLE: It would also be nice if I knew what arugola was. I‘m still trying to find out . We‘ll be back with the round table for more of the politics fix. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BARNICLE: We‘re back with the round table. Margaret Carlson, you know better than most that we have a new poll every 15 minutes in this country.
CARLSON: I can‘t keep up with them, Mike, so please tell me the latest.
BARNICLE: This is just a snippet for the latest poll. This has to do with Barack Obama‘s trip to the Middle East and Europe. Apparently, it didn‘t do too much for what the electorate says it knows about his foreign policy views; 15 percent in this poll say they learned a great deal, 52 percent learned not much or nothing about his foreign policy positions. My question to you, Margaret Carlson, is that in a country, where a lot of people who are wondering what to do on stay-cation—that means you stay home on vacation because you can‘t afford to go any place—do these numbers mean anything at all right now?
CARLSON: They might mean something. His trip and his meeting with world leaders and being treated almost like a head of state, which of course is being used against him, is something that‘s a template in people‘s minds that suggest, yes, he can operate on a world stage. That gets in there and then meshes all the other thing that will come over the next couple of months.
To my mind, it doesn‘t matter that they didn‘t learn so much about his views, they learned a lot about how he carries himself, how he meets with people, how they treat him. This is the first time ever I remember in politics, Mike, where a large crowd is worse than a small crowd.
BARNICLE: You know, Jeff, Margaret raises a question that has interested me now for a couple weeks, since Barack Obama‘s speech in Berlin. He comes back and he‘s being accused, by several people, of having too much ego, of being arrogant. Yet, I‘ve never known anybody running for Selectman, on up through president who doesn‘t have an ego. It‘s by definition of the fact—
JOHNSON: Student Council president.
BARNICLE: Yes, I‘m going to run for this because I‘m better than you or I can do things better than you. How does that strike you?
JOHNSON: I think it‘s absurd to think that somebody that has run for office and is running for president of the United States would not have confidence. I think it‘s absurd to think—clearly, not only as the first African-American to be able to do this, but as someone who‘s just charismatic. We didn‘t hear the same kind of conversation—well, sometimes we did hear the same kind of conversation about Clinton. I think anytime you see someone that‘s charismatic, there is the question of them being arrogant.
BARNICLE: Got to go. John Johnson, thanks very much. Michelle Bernard, thanks very much. Margaret Carlson, thanks, as ever. Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.
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